A debate in our community about the nature of Jewish values hovers over our annual 36 Under 36 section. Would those values best be put to use in the service of Jews or for the good of the wider world? Should they be expressed in a particularistic way or a universal one? How far does repairing the world extend?
In a sense, the young social entrepreneurs, activists, educators and artists profiled here in the eighth installment of our “36” section attest to the hollowness of the debate. They’re local and they’re global. They help make mikvahs accessible to more Jews on the Upper West Side, and they provide mirco-grants to communities in East Africa. They help instill pride in Bukharian teens in Queens, and they help community centers in Malawi launch small businesses. Some have worked both inside and outside the Jewish community. Some have overcome great odds. All are inspiring.
What sets them apart is that, unlike so many of us, they put their shoulders to the wheel, and they put their values into action. They push for change, and they hew to tradition. They carry out cancer research and they combat anti-Semitism and they work toward a more inclusive, more welcoming and more equitable Jewish community. Their passion and their projects caught the attention of Naomi Levine, executive director and chair of the NYU School of Professionals Studies George H. Heyman, Jr. Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising, which partnered with us in sponsoring this special section.
It’s as if they stepped out of the pages of Pirkei Avot: “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work,” the Sages proclaim, “but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.” There’s no “desisting” here. Welcome to the work-in-progress Jewish future.
Profiles by Maya Klausner, Hannah Dreyfus, Amy Sara Clark, Steve Lipman, Jonathan Mark, Stewart Ain, Adam Dickter, Miriam Lichtenberg, Tova Ross and David Hammerschlag
Section curated by Hannah Dreyfus and Maya Klausner
Photographs by Michael Datikash